Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
The barn swallow breeds in almost all areas between tropic of Cancer and Arctic Circle. The first barn swallows arrive there about 10 days earlier than the common house martin, which is the other common swallow.
The back of the barn swallow is a very shiny dark blue, the breast is cream coloured. The throat, the forehead and the chin sport feathers that are chestnut brown.
The barn swallow flies at speeds of 10-20 m/sec (which corresponds to 36-72 km/h or in imperial measure 33 to 67 ft/sec or 22-45 mph). Flapping its wings 4.4 times a minute it achieves these speeds thanks to its very slender build and the long deeply forked tail that is typical for the barn swallow. It thus beats at a lower frequency than the common house martin (5.3) and flies while not traveling at one-third of the height (7-8 m / 23-27 ft instead of over 20 m / 67 ft) of the same.
The barn swallow is hemerophil, that means it is attracted / benefits by human settlements and activities. As such it builds its nests in buildings and on walls under ledges. While feeding their young the parents cling to the rim of the cup-shaped nest. The nests constructed from clay and grass / weed stems are used more than once. Even small openings such as a tilted barn window are used as access to the nesting site. The 4-5 eggs of the barn swallow have brown spots on a white base. A barn swallow can raise up to three broods in a year, the young ones of the earlier broods help feed those of the later ones.
Graceful Acrobats of the Air * **
My father came back with a tasty mouthful in his beak. (...) But he was not interested in filling my mouth with food. Greedily I lunged over the edge of the exit hole to grab the rest of the food. He suddenly jumped back, and I fell out screaming. For a split second, I tried to grab him with my feet. I hurtled downwards, flapping my wings desperately. But just before the crash I expected, I noticed that I could fly! Reeling awkwardly, I followed my father to the closest tree. After I had rested for a while, I plucked up the courage to jump off on my own. I flew directly after my father, making all the curves and banks, zooms and dives, that he did. Later, I tried to get back into the nest. But it wasn’t easy. I managed when father helped me, and I crept back into the nest, which was stuck to the wall, quite exhausted.
** chapter title changed
* quotes from the book "If Animals Could Talk"